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Sterling Employment Law

MI governor vetoes whistleblower bill, citing legislative overreach

Well, there’s a legislative-executive disconnect.

The Michigan Legislature is an oft-divided entity that often can’t garner sufficient support to pass given legislation.

Thus, it is virtually an uppercase headline when that body comes together in resounding fashion to endorse a would-be law. That outcome was recently realized in a vote concerning whistleblower protections that sailed through both chambers of the legislature.

To get specific, Senate Bill 686 secured unanimous approval in both the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives.

Notwithstanding such a rare display of bipartisan support, SB 686 summarily hit a wall with the simple flourishing of a pen.

To wit: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer objected to its stated intent to safeguard the rights of whistleblowers within the state government, and vetoed it.

In doing so, Whitmer accused legislators of playing games to score political points, and additionally decried SB 686 as unnecessary overreaching. The bill seeks to bar retaliatory acts against whistleblowers detailing non-criminal conduct occurring within state agencies to legislators, and Whitmer says that employee discipline in that realm is exclusively reserved to the executive branch. She states that her veto responds to what is an attempt to “violate the constitutional separation of powers.”

It bears noting that Michigan already does have a strong whistleblower law that protects whistleblowers against retaliatory reprisal when they report government-linked criminal behavior.

The abrupt halt to the bill’s momentum doesn’t necessarily signal the demise of SB 686. The prospective legislation can become law pursuant to a legislative veto override, which would require both the Senate and House to approve it by a margin of at least 67%.

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